1. Savage slams provincial bill that would put unprecedented power in the hands of the housing minister
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage spoke at the provincial Law Amendments committee on Monday, expressing strong opposition to Bill 329 which, as Tim Bousquet reports, gives “Housing Minister John Lohr the sole and unfettered ability to give approval to developments.”
Savage repeated criticisms he made last week, saying the bill is trying to solve the wrong problem — it’s not bureaucracy that’s holding up development in Halifax. Eleven-thousand residential units have already been approved in Halifax, with no signs of their being built, and a couple of high-profile sites have been vacant for years and years.
He also did not mince words when it came to the powers the bill gives Lohr:
“This bill is performative and addresses a problem that doesn’t exist and is part of that regulatory solution that enables a single person — a single person with no planning experience or any knowledge of the municipality — to singlehandedly approve projects to go ahead with no requirement for accountability or justification.”
Bousquet also reports the unusual step of having municipal staff present to Law Amendments — necessitated by the absurdly (my word, not Bousquet’s) short timeline between the bill’s introduction and the committee hearing. Bousquet writes:
With its proposed freeze on all development charges, the bill constrains the municipality’s ability to pay for growth,” said [Halifax CAO Cathie] O’Toole. “Halifax has one of the lowest permitting fees in the country, and the cost of facilitating development is highly subsidized by the public.”
O’Toole used the Port Wallace development to illustrate her point.
“The capital costs for basic infrastructure such as water, sewer, and transportation exceeds $30 million — this excludes costs for other services such as a library, recreation, transit, police service or fire service,” explained O’Toole.
“If growth does not pay for growth then existing taxpayers and utility ratepayers pay for the costs of new growth,” continued O’Toole. “Using the Port Wallace example alone, paying for just the water, wastewater, and transportation infrastructure would mean a 4% increase to municipal taxes. And that’s just one development that I’m using as an example. This would impact all taxpayers in HRM, commercial and residential, urban, suburban, and rural. And don’t forget, this is just the component related to water, wastewater, and transportation.”
So, the province can order new development anywhere in the municipality, and the city can’t collect appropriate fees to pay for those developments. What could possibly go wrong?
2. Hammonds Plains Road
“Pam Lovelace says that unless the municipality acts now, nothing will be done any time soon to improve Hammonds Plains Road,” Suzanne Rent reports:
Lovelace is the councillor for Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets. On Monday night, she attempted to jumpstart the byzantine bureaucratic process for improving the road.
At a meeting of the North West Community Council, she asked for a staff report on a functional plan for Hammonds Plains Road, saying the time for improvements on that road is now because the Halifax Regional Municipality has been “sidelined” by the province and Bill 329.
During the community council’s virtual meeting Monday night, Lovelace noted that the Hammonds Plains Road has “significant deficiencies from an infrastructure perspective,” including flooding.
Google Maps also makes a surprise appearance as a villain in this piece.
A new report says “unmanaged symptoms of menopause” cost the Canadian economy $3.5 billion a year, Yvette d’Entremont writes. The report is from the Menopause Foundation of Canada.
From d’Entremont’s story:
Compiled by Deloitte Canada, the report’s economic impact analysis found that employers lose $237 million annually in productivity due to menopause. In addition, women face $3.3 billion in lost income due to a reduction of working hours and/or pay, or because they leave the workforce entirely…
“When I started (my own) research, the first comment that was made to me was, ‘I don’t think this is an issue. Women and menopause in the workplace. Why is that an issue?’ And every person, as I let them think through it, they thought about examples for themselves of their employee, their colleague,” Dr. Shawna O’Hearn, researcher and director of global health at Dalhousie University, said in an interview.
“And then they’re like, ‘Oh, maybe that’s why they were sick so often. Maybe that’s why they weren’t performing as well when they were doing so well and then all of a sudden they had this decline.’ And so many examples started to emerge, because it’s been so silent and so hidden in our thinking, let alone in our conversation.”
It always amazes me that we seem to need the framing of how much something costs the economy before we give a shit about it. This is not a criticism of d’Entremont, who does, in fact, go deeper in her story and looks at the silence around menopause, the lack of knowledge and education, and the lack of training for medical professionals.
Note that the authors of the report seem to be aware of this, too. They frame their findings as a cost of $3.5 billion to “the economy” when most of that cost — $3.3 billion — is individual women’s lost income. I suspect if they led with menopause costing women $3.3 billion in lost income there would be much more of a shrug than if it’s “the economy” that suffers.
The essence of Stephen Kimber’s latest commentary comes in his closing paragraphs:
There is no easy, simple — or perhaps any — solution to the ongoing, never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But nothing good can come of countries like Canada condemning crimes against humanity by one side while looking the other way when those crimes are committed by the other side.
Some of you will probably read Kimber’s article and (wrongly) conclude he is being an apologist for terrorism. Some of you will probably read it and think (wrongly) that he is inappropriately both-sidesing the situation. Regardless of what you think, I do hope you read it.
5. Too good to be true: church donation falls through
The offers [to save two Acadian churches] come as a big surprise given that the community had tried for years to save the spaces in some way. And Sainte-Marie was headed for demolition this summer.
Well, not so fast. Ramesar says the supposed $10 million donation to Sainte-Marie has failed to materialize:
In a statement to CBC News, the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth said it was surprised there was “no response” from the person who made the initial offer.
“We understood that the offer and the conversations were being conducted in good faith,” the statement said…
According to a news release from the archdiocese, it tried, without success, to contact the person making the offer several times in August and has concluded the offer is no longer available.
I don’t know the details, but this certainly makes it sound like the “donation” was never a serious offer in the first place.
6. Emergency physicians group withdraws ‘excited delirium’ paper
Earlier this year I wrote about the junk science of “excited delirium” and how, despite its having been (almost) completely discredited, it was still being used as a way to excuse police for beating people to death.
From my story:
From blood spatter analysis, to the “science” of determining which 911 callers are lying, to connections between “hip hop graffiti” and gang violence, myths perpetrated through police training can be extremely harmful and persist for decades. Excited delirium seems to fall into this category.
Doctors say there is no evidence excited delirium syndrome exists. Canadian coroners are increasingly rejecting it as a cause of death…
Excited delirium is said to cause people to have super-human strength and even make them immune to pain, meaning police need overpowering force to restrain them. If the person dies after suffering, say, repeated electrical shocks, being punched repeatedly in the head, or injected with ketamine (or some combination thereof), well, you can’t blame the officers.
I noted in the article that “the American College of Emergency Physicians is one of the few medical groups to acknowledge the existence of excited delirium.”
Well, no more. NBC News reported last week that ACEP has withdrawn its support for the 2009 “White Paper Report on Excited Delirium Syndrome.”
The American College of Emergency Physicians in a statement called the paper outdated and said the term excited delirium should not be used by members who testify in civil or criminal cases. The group’s directors voted on the matter Thursday in Philadelphia.
“This means if someone dies while being restrained in custody … people can’t point to excited delirium as the reason and can’t point to ACEP’s endorsement of the concept to bolster their case,” said Dr. Brooks Walsh, a Connecticut emergency doctor who pushed the organization to strengthen its stance.
Earlier this week, California became the first state to bar the use of excited delirium and related terms as a cause of death in autopsies. The legislation, signed Sunday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, also prohibits police officers from using it in reports to describe people’s behavior…
The emergency physicians group had distanced itself from the term previously, but it had stopped short of withdrawing its support for the 2009 paper.
The history of how “excited delirium” came to be accepted as a cause of death is a twisted story of racism, absurd conclusions based on no facts, and brazen conflicts of interest. I outlined the story in my “junk science” article, and (if I may say so) I think it’s worth a read.
Is it time to give up flying?
Travel writer Kate Siber has a reflective essay at Outside, on deciding to give up, or at least severely limit, flying because of climate change. Four years ago, she writes, a colleague in the U.K. told her she was giving up flying, and would likely never visit the U.S. again:
Her choice seemed so extreme. She shared it with me casually in the context of conversation, without a trace of judgment or moralizing. Still, I felt shocked and inexplicably a little defensive—but also intrigued. At the time, I traveled by air as often as ten times a year for my work as a journalist and to see family members strewn about the country. I couldn’t imagine my life without flying.
But my colleague’s comment lodged in my mind as a beautiful and challenging seed. Over the next few years, it cracked through the concrete of what had been, until then, a completely unexamined belief in my inviolable entitlement to flying. When the pandemic arrived, grounding travelers and shrinking international air travel by 60 percent in 2020, I began to see that significantly reducing air travel—or even giving it up altogether—was absolutely possible.
As we know, air travel has since come back with a vengeance. But at what cost to the environment? Siber writes:
In 2018, the industry accounted for 2.4 percent of global emissions and has single-handedly contributed to about 4 percent of observed human-caused climate change to date. If it were a country, it would be the sixth largest polluter in the world…
At the same time, a relatively small group of people, including me, are living large on the backs of the masses. One study found that only about 11 percent of the world’s population flew in 2018. And a startling 1 percent of the world’s population causes 50 percent of the emissions from commercial aviation.
Most of the world’s population does not regularly fly. Those of us who take flying for granted are, on a global scale, a relatively elite population. You could take the “cry me a river” position on giving up flying — oh, boo-hoo, poor you, most of the world’s population doesn’t fly, so what makes you think you’re so special that you can’t give it up?
But, as Siber writes, in much of North America the ability to not fly is somewhat elite. Faced with the choice of a flight that costs a couple of hundred dollars, versus a train trip that takes several days return and costs considerably more, it’s no surprise many will choose to fly.
I like this essay. Siber talks to others who have given up flying, or committed to only one flight a year. She writes about the pleasures of slow travel, and not popping in and out of cities. She celebrates being mindful about choosing where to go, and how. She looks at the question of how much individual action matters.
Several of the people she interviews have a moment of revelation. For Siber, it’s flying to the Arctic for work, and being there during a “preposterous” temperature hike. For climate scientist Kim Cobb, it was looking down at the Pacific:
Kim Cobb, a climate scientist and director of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, was filled with grief when a coral reef she’d studied for 18 years almost entirely died off during a monthslong marine-warming event in 2016. Flying home over the Pacific from Korea the next year, staring down at the vast ocean, she thought, Really, Kim? “I just remember this pit in my stomach, realizing that I don’t know how many more times I can do this,” she says of her international flight.
Kim started walking her kids to school every day, biking to and from work in Atlanta and, later, in Providence, Rhode Island, and, between 2017 and 2019, she reduced her plane travel from 150,000 miles per year to zero, transforming her life in the process. Still, sometimes life presents challenges: she chose to fly once, last September, to her brother’s wedding in Denver because a train trip would have necessitated taking her kids out of their new school for a week.
But Cobb also notes that giving up flying would have been extremely damaging to her career, if she were not already so well established.
As Tim Bousquet pointed out last week, we need to change our habits. Switching from gas cars to electric cars without building out transit is not going to save us. Not flying becomes a much more accessible option with decent train and bus service. These are not just individual issues, but systemic ones.
Over the past year and a half, I have flown a lot. Much more than I normally would. I’ve flown to Greece, Toronto (twice), Montreal, Chicago, and I’m going back to Montreal again in a couple of weeks.
One of those Toronto trips was purely fun — my son and I went to three Blue Jays games in two days, then headed home. Sure, we saw family and friends when we were there, but that wasn’t the main purpose. Our flights cost under $100 each. Return.
Greece? My mother lives in Greece. She is 82. My sister lives there too, and I have a raft of cousins, and aging uncles and aunts. I’m not going to decide to never see my mother again. OK, that could be my one flight a year. (Although we don’t go to Greece every year.)
Every time we plan a trip to Montreal — again, lots of family there — we look at the train and weigh the option of driving. It never makes sense, because the cost in lost income would be in the thousands of dollars. That’s a choice we could make if we were more affluent, I guess. Or we could simply decide to not see those family members as often. I don’t know.
And then I think, does it matter if I don’t fly to Montreal, but everyone else is flying to the Caribbean over the winter? But that’s the classic individual vs. collective action issue. If a lot of people make an individual choice, eventually there’s a collective choice.
Even the fact that more people seem to be conscious of the deleterious effects of flying and considering cutting down seems positive. But, as with so much when it comes to climate, it feels a bit like we need radical change, and here we all are, nibbling around the edges.
People in Melbourne have been emailing trees for a decade
Melbourne, Australia, has a great urban forest page with information on the city’s 70,000 trees. More than a decade ago, the municipality assigned email addresses to trees as an easy way for residents to report maintenance issues. Instead of, say, calling 311, you just send an email to the address associate with the tree, noting your observation.
But these are trees we are talking about here, not potholes. So people use the emails for much more than reporting maintenance issues, as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports:
“Dear tree number 1517937, I’m confessing something very dear to me. I have fallen in love with tree number 1583182. I also feel guilty for cheating. I honestly feel really bad and I don’t know what to do. Would be really great if you could give me some advice. Regards, tree lover,” an anonymous admirer wrote.
“Babe I am sorry that you’re so sick. Can I climb you one last time? Strip down that bark for me baby, it’ll make you feel better,” wrote another.
From the ABC story:
Councillor Rohan Leppert said while initially the love letters and poems were a surprise, it was a very “Melbourne response”.
“We discovered that once people had emails, they could give trees personalities by pretending the trees could read what was written for them,” he said.
“It went viral very quickly and created a connection with Melbourne’s urban forest.”
A city employee (identified only as “Juliana” receives the emails, and replies to them, “often with some jokes and some tree puns.”)
Bring on the tree puns!
Oh, and in case you think that’s a pretty sparse number of trees in the screenshot above, it’s because I set the filter to trees planted in the last decade. Those blocks have a whole lot more trees on them than the image shows.
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda
Board of Police Commissioners (Wednesday, 4pm, 60 Alderney Dr. Dartmouth, and online) — agenda
Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm)
Middletown (Tuesday, 7:30pm) —The Fountain School of Performing Arts presents DalTheatre’s Middletown by Will Eno.
13th Annual Mawio’mi (Wednesday, 10am, Studley Quad) — culture sharing and celebration more info
Voice Noon Hour (Wednesday, 11:45am, Joseph Strug Concert Hall) — free performance by students of the Fountain School of Performing Arts
Learning knowledge synthesis methods: Understanding and overcoming uncertainty in the process of conducting systematic reviews (Wednesday, 12pm, online) — PhD candidate Robin Parker will talk
Becoming Kin (Tuesday, 7pm, Alumni Hall, New Academic Building) — a discussion with Patty Krawec, author of Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future who will be interviewed by Trina Roache. Introductions by Tiffany Morris, an L’nu’skw (Mi’kmaw) writer More info
Universities Studying Slavery Conference – (Wednesday to Saturday, all day) — more info
In the harbour
06:00: One Wren, container ship (146,409 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Norfolk, Virginia
07:30: Norwegian Pearl, cruise ship with up to 2,873 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of Boston
09:00: Explora I, cruise ship with up to 1,473 passengers, arrives at Pier 27 from Boston, on a seven-day cruise from New York to Quebec City
10:30: Lake Wanaka, car carrier, arrives at AUtoport from Jacksonville, Florida
11:00: ZIM Asia, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
13:00: CSL Flevik, bulker, sails from Pier 9 for sea
13:00: Crystal Serenity, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Sydney
15:00: Calusa Coast, tug, sails from Pier 25 for sea
16:30: Norwegian Pearl sails for Portland
17:00: Lake Wanaka sails for sea
18:00: SLNC Magothy, cargo ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
19:30: Explora I sails for Quebec City
22:30: Seaborne Quest, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for Charlottetown
03:00 (Wednesday): High Wind, oil tanker, arrives at Berth TBD from Port Arthur, Texas
06:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for Halifax
06:30: Serenade of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,580 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Boston, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of Boston
09:00: Ocean Navigator, cruise ship, transits through the causeway en route from Charlottetown to Halifax
17:00: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, moves from Sydney anchorage to Government Wharf
17:30: Serenade of the Seas sails for Saint John
18:00: Sea Gull, offshore supply ship, sails from Mulgrave for sea
I have to go drive to the city now, but I would love it if transit were an option instead.